Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ayana Mathis

Ayana Mathis's debut novel is The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. From Mathis's Q & A with Miwa Messer of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program:

What was your inspiration for the novel, why did you want to write about these people?

I grew up in unusual family circumstances: I had lots of aunts and uncles, but my mother and I had very little contact with them after I was ten or so. My mother was always telling stories about the 1940s and '50s, the years of her childhood and adolescence, and about her siblings. It's as though I grew up with family ghosts, vague figures that weren’t quite real. It didn’t help that my mother’s stories were just the barest of snippets. As I got older, those stories expanded in my imagination until they grew to mythic proportion. In many ways the novel is my attempt to imagine my way into family and to understand where I came from, to give myself grounding and a context. The characters in the novel are also a part of my family's wider historical context. Hattie's children are the first generation of Great Migration children born in the North.

What is the Great Migration, and what does it have to do with the book?

The Great Migration is one of the most enormously impactful migratory movements of the twentieth century. From 1910 to 1970 some 6 million blacks left the terrors of the Jim Crow South, often with nothing -- a few dollars or just enough food for their journey -- for the cities of the North, West, and Midwest. Their movement...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue